Australia must not allow our politicians and “thought” leaders on the right to push us down the destructive path being pursued by the Republicans.
The American right is waging war on modernity. The radicalised right alliance is sacrificing empirical evidence and truth for theocracy, tribal games and lies. It is determined to reverse the achievements of the Civil Rights era: white Christian man will return to his rightful place as delineator of truth. The contingent is destroying America’s standing to achieve it.
Ultimately the factions that make up the American right see non-white people, non-Christians, women and the LGBTQI+ community as not fully human nor deserving of equality. People who struggle financially, physically, mentally: none of them merit human dignity. The radical Christian right demands these lesser beings abase themselves before the laws of God (as defined by these extremists), and before the white men responsible for enforcing those mandates.
For the plutocrats who fund the right’s activities, the scandals and the progressives’ fight back are all part of a delightful distraction to conceal the funnelling upwards of the nation’s wealth. This group will be well-cushioned from the exigencies of the climate crisis they’re driving us into.
It is easy for progressive factions to see each of their struggles to retain rights as distinct. This is a gift to the right. Women’s right to control their own bodies is intricately interwoven with the LGBTQI+ communities’ battles to control their own bodies too. The threat to the survival of non-white people is analogous to the threat levelled at LGBTQI+ people. Those whose identities place them at the intersection of various categories know best how much more threat they face than, say, middle class white women. LGBTQI+ black and brown people are far more likely to be hurt, raped or murdered even by those appointed to care for them.
The faction nicknamed the Christian Taliban has no qualms about robbing the rest of the population of freedom, even while describing their actions as protecting liberty. The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extreme Christian organisation, bankrolls court cases to test the Supreme Court’s willingness to allow the creation of a segregated economy excluding LGBTQI+ people. Ultimately their goal is to recriminalise sexual acts between consenting LGBTQI+ adults.
The religious right in America is celebrating the overturning of Roe v Wade by working out how it can make abortion illegal nationwide. In the Dobbs case that brought down that partial right to control one’s fertility, Clarence Thomas made it clear that contraception access, marriage equality and even the legality of gay sex should be undermined by similar Supreme Court law-making.
The damage this is doing to women and more post-Dobbs is already apparent. Care for miscarriages has become fraught in red (Republican) states as doctors become too scared to heal, and pharmacists refuse to issue prescribed medication. Some pharmacies are keeping pregnancy tests behind the counter to monitor who requests one. Users have been warned to delete apps that monitor menstruation for fear they will be used for surveillance. Other social crises follow. Thirty six percent of US counties are already maternity care deserts and America has much higher maternal and infant mortality rates compared to similar nations. Indigenous and non-white people predominate in these deaths: one Louisiana senator said that the state’s appalling statistics cease to be such an outlier if one discounts black deaths, in an appalling confession of apathy.
Republicans are working on ways they can prevent all abortion healthcare (which cripples obstetric care). Strategies are being devised to monitor women’s travel between states to ensure it is not for reproductive healthcare purposes. They are also contriving ways to prevent the postal service being used to send the abortion pills that are making this era’s abortion ban somewhat less deadly than the past’s. People in Tennessee are being threatened with three years jail for “lying” about rape to gain access to abortion. Some politicians and activists are working out how the death penalty might be meted out to doctors or patients.
Donald Trump has begun his second run for President with an announcement that he plans to ban all gender medical (hormone) care for minors. Currently, many red states are introducing a flood of laws to prevent the care of youth wishing to delay puberty and transition (despite the clear evidence that it prevents despair and suicide) with harsh punitive measures for parents and healthcare providers involved. One state is looking to charge parents with felony trafficking crimes for taking their child interstate for care. The states are aiming to push the ban on healthcare up to the age of 25 because that is when young people move off their parents’ health insurance and are likely to face substantial obstacles to treatment. Others are looking to ban all gender-based healthcare for adults too. The plan is the total erasure of trans people, and the activists do not care how many people die to achieve this.
A lack of interest in the number of pregnant and LGBTQI+ people who die, plus efforts to impose surveillance and travel bans is only one of the overlapping aspects of the war. Proposals to check schoolgirls’ genitals to see if they are cisgender in order to play in female sporting teams is victimising them as much as the trans youth excluded from these activities. The plan in Florida to monitor female athletes’ menstrual history in detail is as much a way to monitor their possible access to abortion as it is to exclude trans girls. While too many on the right aim to have all LGBTQI+, and supporters, falsely known as groomers and pedophiles, many Republicans want no minimum age for heterosexual marriage.
The attacks on schools and teachers are emblematic of the unified nature of this war on “minority” populations. Florida pushed the College Board to have the AP African-American studies course stripped of its references to current struggles and to Queer and feminist black activists. The attacks on school (and adult) libraries and classrooms demands that any book that makes white students uncomfortable must be removed (including children’s’ books telling MLK’s life story) since only the white mythology of America’s history is acceptable. Any reference to gender or sexuality is also banned, so books about suffragettes are as likely to make the excluded list as books accepting LGBTQI+ existence. Unsurprisingly, The Handmaid’s Tale is on the list.
At the moment Manatee County, Florida, is at the forefront of implementing Governor Ron DeSantis’s war on “woke.” That means teachers’ personal classroom libraries of lovingly collected treasures are banned to students until a “media consultant” has checked every book for appropriateness. Whether Pulitzer Prize winning books for senior secondary students or bland references to two fathers in a picture book for small children, the dehumanised will not be visible to these students. Teachers are threatened with third degree felony charges (equivalent to manslaughter) if any book seen by students is judged to be “pornographic” but for the radicalised gangs in charge of banning the books, the definition of pornographic can be the mention of gender and sexual identities.
The full obscenity of these book bans is seen when contrasted with the enabling of mass shootings with assault weapons that these same politicians are abetting, even in children’s hands.
The non-white in America are seen as automatically guilty, denied the white man’s plaint that he is owed the presumption of innocence. The regular police lynchings of black men establish that they are presumed not only guilty of a particular crime at that moment but guilty of being a constant threat that can only be halted by death. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, instead of sending adequate aid for those abandoned, New Orleans police and the National Guard licensed an assassination program. People stranded with nothing in the disaster zone were to be shot or thrashed for taking an insulated cooler from a backyard in order to survive. Instead of being seen as worthy of saving, they were misleadingly portrayed as “looters.” There is no ability to reveal and repair this kind of constant slander and oppression in a world where the right demands that the crisis cannot be discussed in the mainstream for fear of making white people uncomfortable.
This automatic assumption that (white) man must be innocent and “minorities” are to be feared, monitored and controlled applies to women. To find an assailant guilty of first degree rape is a monumental project that very few survivors manage to achieve. It is, however, the only way in a number of states to prevent having the rapist able to claim custody of the child the woman was unable to abort. Whether it is an attempt to avoid paying as much parental support or a further effort to torture the survivor, these men are not the figures a state should want rearing children. The men governing these states (and their complicit radical right women accomplices) see the survivors as temptresses or liars.
The religious right does not see these attacks on the freedom of their country people as anything but essential. Partly they believe themselves under existential attack because the recognised existence of others as equal humans is an abomination and genocidal threat. They believe in a literal war of “good” against “evil.” This Spiritual Warfare is waged against the demonic forces of Satan.
Supreme Court judges (the third branch of government) recently described prejudice against LGBTQI+ people as honourable compared to dishonourable racism (although they build racist barriers at every step while disguising the intent). These national lawmakers described same sex marriage as “bad,” “false” and something fittingly loathed, as offensive to one’s beliefs.
The more secular right is exploring the post-liberal world order, dismayed and disgusted with the messiness of the post-Cold War world. The idea that the preferences of the nation bend to inclusion and acceptance is a toxicity rather than a suggestion that the formerly conservative need to reevaluate their beliefs and bigotries. LGBTQI+ equality is supported by up to 80% of Americans. Some access to abortion is supported by around 60–80% of Americans, and only 13% support a total ban. Just short of 70% of Americans supported the Black Lives Matter protests. The post-liberal thought leaders, including the national conservatism movement, believe this is evidence of the utterly dissolution of the nation into degenerate chaos as a result of liberal tolerance for others’ freedom of choice. If it takes authoritarian imposition of morality and discipline to retrieve America’s “greatness,” that is what must be imposed.
They are supported by a European hard right that is Western chauvinist, deploying Christianity as a trope for white superiority and the base for the imposition of “traditional” lives and “family values.” The most obviously fascistic contender for the next Republican presidential race is Ron DeSantis who is reported to draw on Hungary’s Viktor Orbán’s actions for inspiration. It is not just Eastern Europe where this rages. Transphobia has hollowed out feminism in Britain creating untold harm. Combined with the deep misogyny and bigotry fostered by powerful influencers such as Andrew Tate, the threat is growing. A young British trans girls was just murdered by two teens as she sat in a park.
Australia faces all these same influences seeping in through our politicians, media and the internet. It builds on the fact we share the founding racism that mars American democracy (and the British colonial project). We are bigoted and misogynistic in great swathes of the country. As the right thrashes around, hollowed out by neoliberal extreme ideology, searching for a mandate, it will echo the American decline into division and hatred. That is, unless we make these forces irrelevant. We must make sure they know: we will not be America here.
We will only achieve this if we stand together, women and LGBTQI+ and BIPOC and all the intersectional identities disallowed and stripped of equal dignity.
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